At what point do you consider a chinchilla "sick"? Or "sick enough" to be put down?

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greychins

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At what point do you consider a chinchilla "sick"? Or "sick enough" to be put down?

I put this in the debate section because I'm sure there will be strongly-held heartfelt beliefs on each side of the issue. The question I ask is, when do you consider a chinchilla sick? What about sick enough to be put down? Does it have to do with a condition they have? With how much that condition will cost to treat? Or any other things that you consider important? I would like to hear opinions.

Let me tell you why I am asking. I believe that my mother's chin, Jinx, has developed a tooth absess. She has a round formation, similar to a tumor, on one side of her lower jaw. It is about the size of a dime in size and diameter. I suppose it could be a tumor (though I haven't heard much of chins getting those), but because of positioning, I could see it being an abscess. I am not home at the moment, but I will post pics when I get home.

I was out of town for the last week or so, but when I came home and noticed this abscess I called the vet. As an abscess would be something we have not dealt with previously, I wanted to simply get an estimate of what the treatment and costs might be. So, to treat this theoretical abscess, including x-rays, drainage, a possible tooth extraction, and meds, I was quoted anywhere between $800-$1500, with the tech stating the costs could be even higher if Jinx has to be hospitalized and spend the night at the vet. However, to add another problem to all of this, Jinx is a malo chin. She had her most recent filing right after Christmas, and developed this abscess soon after.

While the money is part of the issue, what is important here, in my mind, is that Jinx already has a lifelong medical condition which will require continued treatment, irregardless of this abscess. In my mind, I do not consider her to be a healthy chin.

While on the phone with my vet, we came to the topic of euthanasia -- upon which I was told that if the vet did not ethically agree with my hypothetical decision to put her down, she would not be put down. Don't get me wrong, I don't feel like vets should blindly follow what owners say, but let me go on. This vet stated that she would not put down an "otherwise healthy chin" when her abscess was completely treatable. Now, I don't deny the abscess is treatable (at a bank draining cost of $1500+), but I do disagree that this chin is otherwise healthy, as she also has malo, which was incurable the last time I checked.

In my opinion, a chin that already has malo and now is developing further complications that are likely related to the malo is not what I consider an "otherwise healthy" chin. While I don't think that either the malo or the abscess automatically warrants a death sentence (euthansia) by any means, I do feel that she could adequately be classified as a "sick" chin.

But what do you all think? I'm sorry, I love chins to death, but a malo chin is a "sick" chin in my mind. Doesn't mean I won't take them to the vet, doesn't mean I won't pay for filings, handfeed, treat, and medicate them, but at the end of the day, I'm doing all of that because I consider the chin to be sick. Alternately, forget the malo. If there's a chin with a medical problem with a vet quote of $1500+ for a cure... I feel that is a sick chin EVEN if the problem is curable. Sure, it is curable, but in the meantime, the the chin is still "sick." But that's simply my opinion. This vet's opinion is that other than the malo and the abscess, we have a perfectly healthy chin... which I do not agree with.

Before anyone gets up in arms, we are not putting her down. We have found a different vet that has agreed to see Jinx with a quote about half of what the first vet quoted, for what appears to be the same treatment (assuming, of course, that this actually is an abscess, as I have told the vets I believe it is). The question here isn't about not having the money, or about not wanting to pay, it's about what criteria you use when you classify a chin as "sick" in your mind.

Thoughts?
 
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ticklechin

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If this was 5 years ago I would answer the question with do whatever it takes and as much money as needed to get this malo chin through the abscess, that was when I saw the malo world through rose colored glasses. Today, I would put this chin down now and save the chin the pain it will go through with a very poor outcome it will survive the invasive treatment of the abscess, its body is already stressed from having malo and most likely with have a URI take it down anyway. Sounds cold? Yeah, but it is reality when dealing with malo chins and all the crappy things that happen to them.
 

Sycamore Chins

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There are a whole slew of things to address, so I'll try to remember everything that's popped up in my head.

First of all, what kind of malo are we talking? Are the roots affected? Is it just trimming the surfaces of the molars, how often are you doing it and how is the chin's recovery from each procedure?

Second, what is this vet's opinion of malo? Are they the type to keep treating and treating and have a hard time "giving up" on an animal? Or can they see that realistically malo is a life-ending disease.

Third, as an up and coming vet, and given the whole reason I'm going into veterinary medicine is to "save the animals", I feel that the vet should not refuse to euthanize unless they have an alternative for you. I know that a part of my job will be to euthanize animals that are healthy or could be saved one way or another. And yes finances are an issue! That is likely the number one reason to euthanize a healthy animal, probably followed by behavioral problems.

We haven't addressed legal issues yet, but I think this vet can refuse to euthanize, as long as she can justify it. But it is your decision as to whether you want to euthanize, and the vet should support you or give you a proper alternative.

What has helped me with end of life decisions is to make a list of the three things the animal enjoys most. For example "shredded wheats, dust baths, chew sticks" and once those three things are crossed off the list then it is time.

We euthanized a chinchilla last summer that was fairly lively, but going downhill slowly. She had ascites which was likely due to a right heart enlargement. The vet wanted to run a cytology on the fluid and do blood work to confirm but in the end, what would you do for right heart enlargement? Also we were financially constrained and the chin had lived a good life with us. So we decided to euthanize her and the vet ultimately supported us. I necropsied her and she definitely had right heart enlargement, so I felt confident in my decision.
 

Sandi

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For the most part this was the decision I had to face with my CJ. In the first 2 months after his diagnosis of malo, I had already spent $1,500 on xrays, blood work, meds, and vet visits. I thought I was going to lose him with a URI he got right after the first trim & file. After that he was hand fed for almost 3 months and still was going to need filings every 6 to 8 weeks. When I saw that he bounced back right away after each filing, I felt that this would be our routine for a very long time and I was ok with that as long as he behaved, for the most part, like a healthy chin. This became normal for us and with the Beaphar and the Broad Spectrum Supplement, he gained all of his weight back and more, all on his own.

After 10 months of this, one horrible day in October, I noticed his eye looked a little puffy with some matted fur but no discharge and he had not eaten anything overnight, which is when he usually eats. I took him to his vet and they put him under for a full exam as well as skull xrays. He had developed a large abscess just behind and under his right eye, as well as the right upper jaw area. His vet said that all the molars on that side were loose and likely not become intact again. His both sets of incisors were starting to angle sideways as well. There was more bone loss than the first time he was xrayed as well as elongation of roots. But the vet wanted to do the Marsupialization, even though she said he would lose his eye and a few molars. This procedure along with an overnight stay would cost $2,000. To me, it was not about the money. I swear I thought I would have more time with him so this really put me into a state of disbelief and shock. I took one long look at him through my eyes full of tears and knew he would never be my CJ again, the for the most part, normal chin that he was "if" he even came out of surgery. There was no guarantee that he would even make it through this.

From what I have learned and read and talked to a few people that have been through this, it is my opinion to not put a malo chin through this.
 

Pyronymph

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I went through a similar situation with Astrid. She had an abscess, which led to a tooth falling out. After hand feeding her for weeks and watching her liveliness dwindle slowly from the stress and constant pain she seemed to be in, I made the decision to euthanize. I knew that things were likely to only get worse as the teeth moved to fill in the empty space. I didn't think it was fair to keep her in such conditions just because I would miss her.

I bawled my eyes out; the vet let me hold her while the whole thing went down.

And I would hope that someone would (will) make that same decision for me were I in her situation.
 
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greychins

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I do have pictures now, which I will post at the end of the thread. Maybe it’s not an abscess, and if not, someone can tell me what it is.

As for the malo, we are talking about surface malo. We have not had x-rays done recently, but when we did have them done when she was younger at my old vet’s (when I lived 3 hours from here and LOVED the vet), while I do not have the x-rays, they showed no root elongation. She just seems to wear her teeth unevenly. And there's almost no rhyme or reason to her filings. Her first was around 1.5 years old... then no filings until almost 3 years old. Then another around 3.5 years old... and then the most recent one was this past Christmas, and she's about 5.5 years old now. So sometimes they're sooner than others, sometimes she can go a months, sometimes a year, it just depends. She doesn't drool at all, she will simply stop eating because her gums get sore.

Her recovery isn't the quickest I've seen, but isn't the slowest either. The last filing was on Dec. 26, 2011. I've been handfeeding her since, and she is slowly getting around the point where she is almost holding her weight. If I don't feed her for an entire day, she will drop between 20-30 grams. I handfeed her up to the amount she was at the day before, and the next day she will drop 20-30 grams. This is significantly better than right after filing, though, when, if left alone all day (I work and Meijer isn't about to let me take her with me), she might drop 80 grams in 8 hours. As her previous filing was awhile ago, I don't remember exactly how long it took, but it seems like she's making progress. Granted, that saying, it’s been 3 weeks and she’s still not eating enough on her own to sustain her weight. So, to me, she’s not bouncing back as quickly as I might like.

I want to note here, when I was talking about putting her down, I did not specifically mean right this minute. I just meant that if I was to come to the decision where I would not go through with the surgery, then I would watch her quality of life and make the decision when the time came. I hate to make it all about the money, but the fact is, I run a busy chinchilla rescue. We got in and adopted out 50 chins in 2011 - many of which had health problems of their own. One chin costing me $1500 – hate to sound cruel but that could actually “save” several rescues with URI’s or conjunctivitis or other similar health issues, versus this one, which, even with surgery, will still need filings for her malo. I am, sadly, not a money tree.

As for the vet - while she's great for all other things, I practically cringe going in the place when I know I have a dental chin. This vet is all for "saving the animals." She doesn't see malo as a life-ending disease, she sees it as something that can be managed by monthly filings over the course of the chin's life. One of my friends took their malo chin in to this vet -- the chin developed malo when she was young and through monthly filings lived until the ripe old age of 13. However, that was due to the fact that my friend spent over $19,000 on her treatment. I'm sorry, but I refuse to do that.

The vet has roundabout-ly stated that malo chins can live long, healthy lives so long as their teeth are filed down. Yeah, they can live to old ages, but what is the quality of life? This vet basically gives me the impression that there would never be a reason to put a malo chin down - just keep filing away and let them die of old age while in the meantime, you go bankrupt. When I was talking to the technician today, she told me that the vet wouldn't euthanize as long as there was "another option" -- which she stated was the potentially $1500 surgery. While yes, technically, that's another option - it's a really expensive one, and I think an alternative should reasonably be euthanasia, if I am unable to afford $1500 surgery. I was lectured about how it’s not about the cost of the animal (which I did not even mention), it’s about keeping them alive. Yes, but at what cost?

I understand there is an alternative – the surgery. And don’t get me wrong, I do have the money. But here’s the thing -- I fully believe I could bring in a chin to this vet with full root elongation and she would say well, we’ll keep filing! In fact, the last time I was at this vet with this specific chin, I asked about getting x-rays done. I don’t remember why we didn’t actually get them done, I think something to do with the fact we'd arrived late to our appointment and we would have to come back for x-rays....but here’s the important part – when I asked about getting x-rays, the vet said that regardless of what the x-rays showed, her diagnosis and treatment would be the same – filing the teeth til the chin died of old age. Euthanasia seems to not be an option for her.

All this said… the tech did tell me that if I took the chin in to them and the vet refused to euthanize, I might try to contact my local animal care and control and see if they would put the chin down. Which, in all reality, if I was to put this chin down, I wouldn’t feel the need to drive the two hour round trip to have an exotic specialist give the shot – I’m sure most local vets could do the trick.

And to add insult to injury (the vet really made me feel like I was being cruel by not immediately putting down my credit card to pay for any and all needed care), the vet stated that if I wanted to be with the chin while it was put down, that would be an extra $25. *shakes head*

Photos to come in a minute, I SHOULD really be working on a research paper.
 

chinchillalover0927

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wow! an extra $25.00 fee for you to be there while the animal is put down. never in my life have i heard something so ridiculous... What are they doing in the back that they are suppose to be doing that they skip out on ?? My first thought is that they must use a different way of putting down the animal in the back that saves them the $25.00

Secondly, I completely agree on your point of cost. Money shouldnt be an object when taking care of an animal, but like you said, there is a point when enough is enough.I could never bring myself to spend $20,000 on one animal to keep it alive when its quality of life isnt that great!!
People arent made of money and $20,000 is alot of money on vet bills so I truly dont think I could bring myself to spend that. For my best interest financially and my animals best interest mentaly and pyhsically I would choose to put the animal to sleep.
 

greychins

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Yeah, I don't know why the extra cost. I thought that was ridiculous. And the tech wouldn't give me an answer as to why it was more to be present. Theoretically, it should be the exact same procedure whether I am there or not.

Ok, time for pictures. And I did have a question. Many of the vets I talked to today (I was calling around trying to get a reasonable idea of what this should cost) were talking about pulling the tooth as a way to deal with this abscess. Does anyone know if that is actually necessary? To me, it seems this could be drained from the outside and the tooth could be left in place. I know I have read on here that if a tooth is pulled, there will be additional complications because the other teeth will start to move. Could someone enlighten me as to what those complications are and how that all works?

Ok, so onto pictures. I will say, it is my fault she has no fur under her neck. That's not a symptom or anything. After my mother's botched attempts to hand-feed, she was a matted up mess of CC and fur under her neck, and rather than try to wash it out, and I slowly pulled out all of the matted up fur, figuring it'd grow back in evenly. This was before my week absence - there was no abscess at the time. Of course, my mother is now blaming my fur-pulling for the abscess.



 

CritterLover86

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I have so far been fortunate and have not personally had a chinchilla with teeth issues (I did have eye issues with 2 chins though, that caused me to freak out, get x-rays, and I'm thankful that they were just eye-related and not symptoms of tooth issues.)

But I have read many stories, and seen other people go through the **** that is dental disease. If we were talking about a lazy chewer who got points here and there, that's one thing.

But when it comes to root elongation and malo, I have to admit, I'd choose to put down my chin sooner than later. I'm fully aware that chins are prey animals, and will hide pain. So "well they still run around" doesn't cut it for me. I've seen chin's quality of life degrade to almost nothing, but people still pushing filings, handfeedings and meds just to keep the animal going. I see the issue of pushing care to keep an animal alive too often, having worked as a vet assistant for over 10 years.

Even then, I did it with my kitty. My poor siamese , at 18 suddenly had a huge onslaught of issues.. high blood pressure, blindness, kidney failure, other things were happening, she lost weight... but she would still purr. She was so sick, but she would still purr when we would hold her. So I would syringe-feed her baby food, shove pills in her mouth and give her sub-q fluids 2 times a day... I didn't do it to be cruel, but god do I ever regret pushing her so far. It would have been far better to let her go after we noticed all the issues setting in. Instead, we had waited until she let go, my mom was home alone with her.. she won't even tell me the details of how terrible it was to watch her pass on her own.

I know, that's talking about my 18 year old kitty, but the point is still there. It taught me that no matter how much you hate to have to let them go, because you don't want to give up on them, you have to try to not let that cloud your vision. A terminal illness (which elongation/malo pretty much is, a medical issue that will result in ending their life) , is never going to get any better, and it is much better to give your pet a kind, gentle, and dignified end, than to push them so far that you look back and go "oh my god, why did I put them through so much?"

It's not about money, or about 'giving up on them', it's about mercy. I think how I would feel living a few months, or a couple years with excruciating pain, unable to eat on my own, having the roots of my teeth growing into my sinuses and eyes and down through my jaw, and the meds only take the edge off, with no hope of getting any better, and to me it sounds awful.

I know there are different cases, and some that can be managed fairly well for a time, so this doesn't apply to say, a lazy chewer that gets a point every 4 months or something like that. But for the more serious cases, better a moment too soon, than a second too late.

(by the way, I just want to add- I do know where most owners' hearts have been in cases where I felt chins were pushed too far. I know it's not done to be selfish, I know because I did it with my beloved kitty. Putting a very loved pet down is hard, especially when you think they still want to fight. So I do understand. I just know that I wish we had decided to let Whiskers go sooner, and that I will never push an animal so far again. I just couldn't. )
 

Sycamore Chins

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I can't say anything about pulling teeth in order to access the abscess, but pulling teeth in chinchillas is not a good idea. The exotic specialists I've been reading are working on spreading the word.

Is the lump squishy or firm?

As you've probably noticed, all vets do things differently. It looks like you and the vet aren't seeing eye to eye, so you would probably be happy with another vet. In the end it is completely your decision and vets should not try to make it for you. They should give you the information you need to make an informed decision yourself and support you, or refer you to someone else.

In my opinion malo is not an easily managed lifelong disease like Diabetes, Addison's, Cushings, etc.
 

greychins

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The lump isn't really firm, but it's not really squishy either. It will "go in" if pushed, but it's not like squishy by any means. It feels reasonably solid, not like I would expect it to feel if it's filled with a liquid. As I understand, abscesses are puss-filed. If that's the case, I would have expected this to be more squishy than it is... which makes me wonder about whether it's an abscess. The positioning of it is really the only thing making me think so. But.... I'm not sure what else it could be.

I agree that I would be happier with another vet - unfortunately, the next closest one that is actually an "exotics" vet is 2.5 hours away from here in Indy (that's where I used to go). While I loved that vet, they do not do treatments same-day, which means that taking any chin there would involve at least 10 hours of driving...5 for the first visit, 5 for the return, and possibly another 5 if the chin had to stay overnight. So... I'm trying to find a better local option. When I first started in chins, all the local vets used to tell me to go to this place that's quoting me $1500, because they are the exotic specialists. And apparently they are, but you're right, we just don't see eye to eye. The place that has agreed to see this chin is also about an hour away (as is the $1500 place), and they did say they see exotics... so we will see how it goes when I go there. This place isn't an exotic specialist by any means, but maybe they'll be more willing to work with me.
 

CritterLover86

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I'm not sure how much this helps, but for local vets, (even if they are not exotics specialists) Maybe try the Highland Animal Clinic, we used to see Dr. Anne DeGraff for our birds, she actually saved the life of our bird sweetie 9 years ago when she was egg bound. I don't know if she works with chinchillas, or would, but she is a very sweet person and a very good vet. We used to go to her with all of our pets when we lived in Munster. (We lived in Munster until I was 11, then moved to New Lenox, IL almost 14 years ago).

If you're willing to drive an hour, there's an exotics vet in Lisle, Dr. Ness, who I take my chins to. He's excellent and I like that he doesn't 'push' things. He will suggest things he thinks are a good idea, but I've never felt pushed to do anything. He seems to really listen and take your opinion into account. So just another idea, but I know that's a hike.
 

greychins

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Currently, we are set to go to McAfee in Valpo (sometime next week, I called work but of course the schedule's not done yet) - they were recommended as "the place that sees exotics"... in a roundabout way. We called Cooley, they referred us to... Valley View? Valley Ridge? something like that in Valpo. Called them, they told us they don't see exotics, but McAfee does. So... we're going to give it a shot. They seemed nice enough, but who knows. If I'm not crazy about them, I will definitely give the Highland Animal Clinic a call - it's worth a shot anyways.

I have heard of Ness Exotics... but have never gone there, but I've heard good things. We'll see how this visit goes.

I wish something closer was an option... which is why I will give Highland a call first if the Valpo vet doesn't pan out. Even the Valpo one is about an hour... which is fine, but for emergency purposes when a chin has to see a vet now, a vet that's an hour away doesn't do me a ton of good, even if I think they're awesome. That's why I loved living in Indy, I was like 20-30 minutes away from the vet I thought was great... Even here, I used to go to Lincoln Way in Merrillville... there was a vet there who'd studied under Dr. Lennox (Indy vet) and he saw our chins... but of course, I called there today and he's no longer working there.
 

ticklechin

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To pull a lower tooth or any tooth on a chin that is still "anchored" (the teeth are not anchored per se but I mean teeth that are not falling out) to bone is risky at best, the actuality of breaking the upper and lower jaw is almost a given. And yes to treat a abscess the tooth has to go, there is no choice. The tooth needs to be removed, the gum either inside or outside the affected tooth needs to be flapped, the fistula found and the area debrided, the antibiotic beads placed, the area sutured up and prayers said. The outcome of these surgeries is poor especially on a chin with malo. I have been there and did that.


In my opinion your vet is a a$$, BTW.
 

greychins

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Dawn, thanks for explaining it. I just wasn't sure about the tooth extraction, having never dealt with an abscessed tooth before.
 

WhiteTree

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Scamp had an abscess of one of the molars, the previous vet had filed the teeth too short and the gum grew over the teeth and became infected. They push the gum back, draining the abscess and then treated with antibiotics. It cost me about $350.
 

ticklechin

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Scamp had an abscess of one of the molars, the previous vet had filed the teeth too short and the gum grew over the teeth and became infected. They push the gum back, draining the abscess and then treated with antibiotics. It cost me about $350.
This is a periodontal abscess you describe and the treatment needed is different than the periapical abscess that the OPs chin has, just a FYI. Periapical abscesses need to have the tooth removed, periodontal does not.
 

RDZCRanch

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You do not need to find an exotic veterinarian to euthanize a chinchilla. Any vet can look up the dosages for euthanasol and sedation for small animals and administer it.

I've seen that exact abscess twice before. Having been there and done that, my advice is the same as Dawn's. Put the chin down and don't let this vet dictate what is best for YOUR animal.
 

greychins

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Upon much thought and hearing what you all have to say... and I definitely trust Dawn's judgement (among many others who have posted, who I also trust), I know Dawn's been there, done this and that and much much more....

....I'm thinking we will be putting her down. My mom is in the hospital until Saturday, though, so we are going to wait at least until she can come home and see Jinx again, as this is her chin.

So with this kind of problem... is this a situation where she should immediately be put down? Or is this kind of a wait and see how her quality of life is and when it deteriorates, put her down? I'm used to malo chins but never something like this. I don't know if it matters, but at the moment, she's still eating, hopping around, running on her wheel (when we give it to her, for limited amounts of time maybe once a week, now that she's lost so much weight)... acting reasonably normal.

Also... was quoted $110 to put a chin down (at the first vet which said she still wouldn't put down a chin that's "otherwise healthy" *rolls eyes* -- needless to say we wouldn't be going to her for that). I'm sure prices vary, but is that about normal? I haven't had to put one down in years and I don't remember what it was last time.
 
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